Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Are Lawyers Squandering the Chance to Tell Stories about Justice?

I work for innocent people hurt by another's wrongdoing. Some people call me a personal injury lawyer. Whether that term is fair or not, many lawyers out there work in that area of the law.

What's troubling to me is how the media  -- along with the insurance and business industries -- have branded the work I do and the justice we get for hardworking Americans. When there is a story about a verdict, the headline screams something like, "$4 Million for man killed in truck collision." To me, it dehumanizes the victim and reduces that person's tragedy to a dollar amount. It's shameful.

Once social media and the various sites across the internet became reliable sources of news (as opposed to newspapers and radio/TV), I had hopes that somewhere, somehow the real stories would be told about how there was a permanent, and life changing tragedy underlying any jury verdict. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened with media. Worse, lawyers have not helped explain in basic terms how justice was handed down. This failure has happened despite the near limitless tools that allow lawyers like me to spread the word- Linkedin.com, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, even Vimeo.

So, now I call on injury lawyers to tell the rest of the story when the media fails to do so about a verdict.

Recently, there was a jury verdict in New Mexico. Here's the headline and the story:

$58M verdict in death suit could be New Mexico "recordLink here

The newspaper breathlessly describes the loss of a husband and father as a "record," like running the fastest 
in the Olympics, or swallowing the most live fish in one sitting.  This man's life was more than that. As the article pointed out,

" Bill Robins, the lead trial attorney for Udy’s estate, said the jury agreed that the Defendants'  truck driver  had been inadequately trained, and that the Defendant employer had a record of past safety violations ...  To the family, we understand that there is no way to put a monetary value on a human life. We trust that Kevin’s children will remember their father, will continue to live their lives in a manner that will honor his memory, " Robins. 

Unfortunately, most news outlets were too lazy to report a little more in depth. See here.  In the first reports, the lawyer wasn't named or quoted. 

As injury lawyers, I and others owe it to the families of folks like the Udy family to tell the rest of the story. So what do some do? Lawyers write this (on Twitter)

Chicago Jury awards $8M to family of woman fatally struck on I-294,

ATTN Hip Implant Recipients: ASR XL hip implant suit against DePuy Inc has resulted in a $8.3 million jury verdict

J&J lost first of 10,000+ lawsuits over faulty hip replacements. The verdict: $8.3 million in damages

Vaginal Mesh Lawsuit Awards $3.5 Million: Vaginal Mesh Verdict on February 25, 2013

My advice to lawyers who have blogs, use Twitter, or Facebook: Change the conversation. Tell the story. Even if the lead is something simple like, "Family waits 4 years to get justice in New Mexico." Lawyers collectively have the power of many. 

Will you change your headline, or will you just parrot the headline? I plan to do a better job too.